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Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 16, 1979. Interview C-0013-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Asa T. Spaulding was born in rural North Carolina in 1902, but his scholastic aptitude soon removed him from the farm where he spent his childhood. After a high school education in Durham, North Carolina, Spaulding earned a degree from New York University and received training as an actuary at the University of Michigan. He returned to Durham to take a position at the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, a historically African American company. Spaulding eventually held its presidency, and before, during, and after attaining this leadership position, used his influence to advance the interests of the African American community. Spaulding remembers some of those efforts in this interview, including an unsuccessful try for the mayoralty in Durham and his support for a community grocery store. At the heart of this interview, sharing space with Spaulding and his relatively conservative approach to civil rights agitation, are other African American and white civil rights leaders Spaulding worked with, including the fiery but effective Dan Martin, the organizer Howard Fuller, educator Charles R. Moore, and John Wheeler, who helmed the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs. Spaulding's discussion of the committee, as well as North Carolina Mutual, highlights the importance of Durham's African American organizations in sustaining a vibrant black community, and their uncertain future in a changing state. Researchers and students interested in economic empowerment, community organizing, and African American business will find much of interest in this interview.

    Researchers and students might also consult the two other interviews with Spaulding in this collection, C-0013-1 and C-0013-2. Those interested in learning more about the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and black business in the South might turn to the interviewer's book, Black Business in the New South: A Social History of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.

    Excerpts
  • Political success and failure
  • Belief in a conciliatory style to achieve political change
  • Remembering Charles R. Moore
  • Voting and passing in the black community
  • Rising assertiveness in the early twentieth-century black community
  • An even-tempered approach to civil rights
  • An effort at creating an economic base for the black community
  • The demise of Spaulding's 1971 mayoral campaign
  • A black politician forces whites to confront their racial attitudes
  • John Wheeler, head of the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs
  • Musing on the future of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company
  • Thinking more about the future than the civil rights movement of the past
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.